Please welcome Christine Frazier, founder of the Better Novel Project!
How did the Better Novel Project begin and evolve over time?
I wanted to write a novel but I didn't know where to begin-- I felt comfortable with prose and description but didn't know how plot or structure worked. I decided to study successful books-- Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight-- to see what structural elements they have in common. As I began my research, I thought I would start posting my findings online to both help other writers, give me some accountability, and start building a platform.
The biggest evolution over time has been the artwork. When I started, I purchased stock photos to accompany the articles. I learned a lot about blogging and copywriting from my older brother who writes NoMeatAthlete.com. He pointed out that I love to doodle, and suggested that drawing my own pictures for my posts would help me stand out. He was right! Now I spend just as long on creating an infographic or shareable image as I do the actual research (and it's a lot of fun!)
What common elements do you see in successful books?
There are probably 100 common elements in the master outline! In the beginning, I picked up on very broad similarities-- I think one of my first posts was about how Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games all involve a young adult protagonist and element of magic of science fiction. As I've become more familiar with those three books, I can pull out smaller similarities and zoom in on the structure of scenes themselves, like a fight scene.
You cover so many story aspects in your posts. What and where do you research to pull it all together in your articles?
For the first few months of my blog I consulted some great books like Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers by James Baker Hall and The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey. They definitely set my off on the right foot. To get in the correct mindset for deconstruction, I also like Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and of course, The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Now most of my research just comes from the main source novels themselves. I see something different every time I go back to them. I will also get inspired by films I love, like The Dark Knight or Star Wars.
You say you discovered the joy of research and outlines while in law school. How does it all figure into what you do now outside of Better Novel Project?
Yes, I loved law school! I was a practicing attorney for several years, and now I am taking a break to focus on my novel, Better Novel Project, and my other site TheRoyalHamster.com.
What’s the one thing that causes writers to struggle the most?
The most common e-mail I get from readers is asking whether something in their plot is "right." As much as I love studying patterns in writing, they are just patterns, not rules. I think structure is worthwhile to study so that you can meaningfully deviate from that structure as you see fit for your own story.
As for myself-- my biggest struggle is sitting down and doing the work. I can always find a legitimate-seeming distraction that bumps its way to the top of my to-do list, leaving "no time" to write. I can get overwhelmed easily by the prospect of a big scene I want to do and then end up doing nothing at all. My trick is to tell myself I only have to write for five minutes, and then I can get up if I want. It makes the getting started part a lot easier, even if I end up writing for longer!
Hi there! I’m Christine. I studied creative writing at The Johns Hopkins University, and then discovered the joy of research and outlines while in law school.
I love researching literary patterns and their creative applications. I’m also a compulsive doodler. (I do the illustrations for The Royal Hamster)
You can keep in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.